Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

A Search For Redemption

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

In last Friday’s Washington Post, I found Abu Ghraib MP Slain In Bid for Redemption to be a touching and sobering article.

Santos A. Cardona, an Army dog handler involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, was determined to continue fighting in America’s overseas battles to erase the stain of his assault conviction, his family members said.

Those closest to him said his passion for doing what he loved in the service of his country led him to try to return to Iraq in 2006, but the military brought him home after his planned deployment was publicized. Late last year, Cardona, 34, got his chance to rejoin the fight.

He traveled to Afghanistan as a government contractor, using a German shepherd to search for improvised explosive devices and weapons stockpiles. On Saturday, Cardona and his dog, Zomie, were killed when his military convoy hit a roadside bomb, according to Cardona’s employer and his family.

Cardona’s death was a violent end to a quest for redemption. His loved ones said he undertook one last year at war to earn money for his young daughter, show the military that he was good at his job, and dispel the cloud caused by photographs from Abu Ghraib that circled the globe.

Later, the article discusses Cardona’s role in Abu Graib and the subsequent trial

Cardona and his tan Belgian Malinois, Duco, were shown in photographs of detainee abuse that surfaced publicly in 2004. The most notable image showed Duco growling at a cowering, naked detainee.

Cardona argued he was ordered to have Duco intimidate high-value detainees at the behest of senior officers — claims supported by court testimony and military records — and jurors acquitted him of all but one assault charge. Cardona was ecstatic after receiving a verdict that spared him jail time and allowed him to stay in the Army.[emphasis added]

But staying in the Army did not mean the legacy of Abu Ghraib would disappear. After his blocked attempt to return to Iraq in 2006, he worked at the Army’s dog kennels at Fort Bragg, N.C. Demoted as part of his sentence and finding he was unable to sign up for the five more years it would have taken to earn a full military retirement pension, Cardona was honorably discharged on Sept. 29, 2007, according to Army records.

Though Cardona always believed he had done nothing wrong at Abu Ghraib, he carried a silent anger at those who ordered his actions but never were held to account, family members said.

Cardona’s daughter, Keelyn, is nine years old. Keelyn’s mother is Heather Ashby. The article describes Cardona’s early Army life

Easygoing, sometimes goofy, Cardona was dedicated to the life of a soldier. He joined the Army at age 17 in 1993 — needing his father’s signature to do so — and envisioned a military career. He met Ashby, also a military police soldier, while the two were stationed in Germany in the late 1990s, and Keelyn was born in 1999. It was then that Cardona fell in love with dog handling and was sent to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, where he used his dogs on patrols to sniff out bombs and provide security.

He so loved his working dogs that he adopted them after they were retired from service. Duco, now 12 years old, lives with Keelyn and Ashby in Florida.

I’m sure there are those that could never forgive Cardona his role in Abu Ghraib. But taking the article at face value, Cardona was totally committed to the Army and to his dogs. After being blocked by Army brass from continuing to ply his training, Cardona found a way, perhaps the only way, to use his training to serve his country and provide for his family, by searching for roadside bombs that have claimed so many lives.

Santos Cardona

Santos Cardona

The article Shock and Anger in Baghdad Greet the Abu Ghraib News tells of the anger expressed by Iraqis when the US attempted to reassign Cardona to Iraq after his conviction, apparently to train Iraq’s police

For many Iraqis, the punishment meted out to those found guilty of atrocities in the prison was too lenient; and Sgt. Cardona’s return only confirmed suspicions that the U.S. military never took the case seriously. A top Iraqi military commander, trained and appointed to his high position by the U.S., once told me that the Americans should have made an example of all those found guilty by “cutting of their heads and displaying them at the entrance of the Green Zone.” This, from a man who proudly labeled himself as a “friend of America.”

And this

Even America’s allies here bring up Abu Ghraib all the time, as proof of how little the U.S. understands Iraq. Last year, a European diplomat told [the author] the infamous Abu Ghraib photos—some of them featuring Sgt Cardona—”did more damage to U.S. credibility in Iraq than a Cruise missile smashing into a kindergarden.”

Let’s see.

  • cutting off heads and displaying them
  • photos that do more damage to U.S. credibility than cruise missiles hitting a kindergarden

And the U.S. has little understanding of Iraq? Do these quotes not tell us quite a bit of what we need to know?  And recently, there was a story from Saudi Arabia about a female that was detained because she was …. driving. And then a day or two later, there was a story about two men in Saudi Arabia that were detained because they sought the autograph of … a female author. I think that Iraq, and the Middle East in general, overestimates the difficulty that Westerners have in understanding their cultures. It doesn’t seem too complicated to me. But then acid helps make everything clearer.

A Shoe For Samira Jassim

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

For the past couple of years, the number of suicide bombings in Iraq that have been carried out by women has increased. In the Canberra Times, Woman Set Up Rapes To ‘Recruit” 80 Suicide Bombers tells the story of Samira Jassim. Covered also by the BBC in Iraq’s ‘female bomber recruiter’, Jassim was detained by Iraqi authorities in January. According to BBC

In an apparent video confession, the middle-aged woman described how she identified potential bombers, helped supply them with explosives and led them to their targets.

She also explained, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, how insurgents used rape as a tool, with the “shamed” women persuaded to redeem themselves through suicide attacks.


Insurgents use female bombers because they can hide explosives under their robes and are less likely to be searched by male guards at security checkpoints.

Both articles state that such claims are impossible to verify. However, according to the Canberra Times

…Jassim has given unusual first-hand descriptions of the possible workings behind last year’s spike in attacks by female bombers.

The United States should stop worrying whether having females in underwear interrogate prisoners is torture and, instead, redouble efforts to rid the world of flagitious scum. It’s too bad that Muntadhir al-Zaidi could not see the depth of responsibility that Iraqis have for their own country.

Provincial Elections in Iraq

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

It is still early, but the preliminary results from Iraq’s provincial elections bode well for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraq Election Results Point to a Big Win for Maliki begins

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who seemed weak and isolated a year ago, appears to have won a sweeping victory in the Iraqi provincial elections that will strengthen his hold on central government. For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to preliminary results, Iraqi voters chose secular and nationalist parties over their religious rivals.

Mr. Maliki’s Dawa party is predicted to emerge at the top of the poll in Baghdad and Basra, Iraq’s two largest cities, as well as in most of the overwhelmingly Shia south of Iraq. The largest Shia party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), hitherto one of the main powerbrokers in the country, suffered heavy losses in all the provinces where it has been in charge for the past four years. “According to initial information, Maliki’s list has come first in Basra with 50 per cent of the vote. Ours took 20 per cent,” said Furat al-Sheraa, the head of ISCI in Basra.

The outcome of the election, which will probably be repeated in the parliamentary elections in December, marks a sea-change in Iraqi politics, with both the Shia and Sunni communities punishing the religious parties which flourished after the U.S. occupation in 2003. The results are a clear endorsement of Mr Maliki who has managed to displace the militia of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, negotiated the withdrawal of 142,000 U.S. troops during the next three years and confronted the Kurds By stressing his nationalist credentials and success in improving security, Mr. Maliki has gained the allegiance of the majority Shia community.

The Election: Preliminary Results from the New York Time Baghdad Bureau states

The preliminary count shows Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition getting the biggest vote in nine out of the 14 provinces contested, but nowhere does he manage an absolute majority. His highest tally is 38% in Baghdad, but in other areas he is on 11% to 20%, which means he will be dependent on other coalition partners, or could even be squeezed out by others forming alliances against him.

It is unclear exactly how many seats each of the leading parties will win – with between 26 and 57 up for grabs in each province, depending on its size. The full results will take more than three weeks, because of complex voting rules on how to allocate seats. Anbar could prove problematic, with some parties alleging voting irregularities.

and later, the article refers to

…Mr. Maliki’s current high personal standing as a leader with a good security record.

That’s refreshing. And it must be equally refreshing to Iraqis to actually have more than one name on a ballot. I wonder who Muntadhar al-Zaida voted for? Maybe he has put down the Ramazan Baydan Model 271 Brogues long enough to reflect on the significance.

Cohen Head

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Today’s Washington Post had an op-ed piece by the inestimable Richard Cohen tagged Reading Into Bush’s Book List. Cohen riffs off of a recent piece by Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal. In the WSJ piece, Rove provides insight into Bush’s reading habits and describes the book-reading competition that the two have waged each year for the past three years. The competition is simple. The winner is the one that reads the greater number of books. Rove won the 2006 competition by a final score of 110 to 95. According to Rove

Bush’s 2006 reading list shows his literary tastes. The nonfiction ran from biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Babe Ruth, King Leopold, William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long, LBJ and Genghis Khan to Andrew Roberts’s “A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900,” James L. Swanson’s “Manhunt,” and Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Mayflower.” Besides eight Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald, Mr. Bush tackled Michael Crichton’s “Next,” Vince Flynn’s “Executive Power,” Stephen Hunter’s “Point of Impact,” and Albert Camus’s “The Stranger,” among others.

Fifty-eight of the books he read that year were nonfiction. Nearly half of his 2006 reading was history and biography, with another eight volumes on current events (mostly the Mideast) and six on sports.

In 2007, Rove prevailed 76 to 51. Again, according to Rove

His list was particularly wide-ranging that year, from history (“The Great Upheaval” and “Khrushchev’s Cold War”), biographical (Dean Acheson and Andrew Mellon), and current affairs (including “Rogue Regime” and “The Shia Revival”). He read one book meant for young adults, his daughter Jenna’s excellent “Ana’s Story.”

In 2008, as of the date of the article, Rove was ahead 64 to 40. According to Rove

His reading this year included a heavy dose of history — including David Halberstam’s “The Coldest Winter,” Rick Atkinson’s “Day of Battle,” Hugh Thomas’s “Spanish Civil War,” Stephen W. Sears’s “Gettysburg” and David King’s “Vienna 1814.” There’s also plenty of biography — including U.S. Grant’s “Personal Memoirs”; Jon Meacham’s “American Lion”; James M. McPherson’s “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief” and Jacobo Timerman’s “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.”

Each year, the president also read the Bible from cover to cover, along with a daily devotional.

Cohen’s piece is a classic drive-by, meant for consumption by the simple-minded. Here is Cohen

Rove always won, but Bush had the ready excuse that he was, as he put it, busy being “Leader of the Free World.”

And here is Rove

At year’s end, I defeated the president, 110 books to 95. My trophy looks suspiciously like those given out at junior bowling finals. The president lamely insisted he’d lost because he’d been busy as Leader of the Free World.

Hmm. I detect a difference in tone.

Here is Cohen

…most of Bush’s books have been biographies and histories. Biographies are usually about great men who often did the unpopular thing and were later vindicated. As for histories, they are replete with cautionary tales.

You can see where Cohen is going with this reasoning, right? Here is Rove

Nearly half of his 2006 reading was history and biography, with another eight volumes on current events (mostly the Mideast) and six on sports…in 2007…[h]is list was particularly wide-ranging…from history…, biographical…, and current affairs….in 2008…[h]is reading…included a heavy dose of history.

You see, Cohen wants to imply that Bush has been reading about similarly flawed historical figures. But Cohen, whose intellectual honesty couldn’t stand up to a nematode, can’t bring himself to actually name names.

What Cohen does name is a bevy of books, the absence from Bush’s reading list which causes him no small amount of pique. These books include

Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” Tom Ricks’s “Fiasco,” George Packer’s “The Assassins’ Gate” or, on a related topic, Jane Mayer’s “The Dark Side” about “extraordinary rendition” and other riffs on the Constitution. Absent too is Barton Gellman’s “Angler,” about Dick Cheney, the waterboarder in chief.

[Nice dig there on Cheney, Mr. Cohen. Do you mind if I call you Dick?]

I’m sure the authors listed above are fair and balanced and have no particular axe to grind.

According to Cohen

The list Rove provides is long, but it is narrow. It lacks whole shelves of books on how and why the Iraq war was a mistake, one that metastasized into a debacle.

and this

They are not the reading of a widely read man, but instead the books of a man who seeks — and sees — vindication in every page. Bush has always been the captive of fixed ideas. His books just support that.

I find the use of the words “metastasized” and “debacle” particularly interesting. “Metastasized”, as in just about the worst news a seriously ill patient could hear. And “debacle”. Mr. Cohen wouldn’t recognize a debacle if it came up and bit him. A debacle, Dick, is what we would have had if Bush had listened to the small-minds and withdrew from Iraq back in 2007. Do you recall what the prognosis was for Iraq and the Middle East, for that matter, if the US had withdrawn to leave Iraq to a Civil War? Go back and do some reading. The small-minded were willing to throw the entire region into turmoil to score political points. Thank God that Bush was “captive of fixed ideas”, such as the fixed idea that we were going to get it right, that we were going to win. We have paid a very heavy price, no doubt. And speaking of captives of fixed ideas, Dick, is that anything like Obama’s refusal to admit that the surge worked?

You Can Call Him Dick

You Can Call Me Dick

First Shoes, Now Christmas

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Putting spin on the incident occasioned by Muntadhar al-Zaida’s carelessness with his shoes, one might say that it is a sign of progress – of freedom of expression – that was completely missing in Sadam Hussein’s Iraq. Now comes word of Christmas celebration in Baghdad. According to the piece

Welcome to the first-ever public Christmas celebration in Baghdad, held Saturday and sponsored by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Once thought to be infiltrated by death squads, the Ministry now is trying to root out sectarian violence — as well as improve its P.R. image.

But it is a little bit different celebration than we are used to here

The event takes place in a public park in eastern Baghdad, ringed with security checkpoints. Interior Ministry forces deployed on surrounding rooftops peer down at the scene: a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and tinsel; a red-costumed Santa Claus waving to the crowd, an Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders; a red-and-black-uniformed military band playing stirring martial music, not Christmas carols.

An Interior Ministry spokesman says that sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. He stated further

Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.

The story quotes Father Saad Sirop Hanna, a Chaldean Christian priest. Hanna was kidnapped by militants in 2006 and held for 28 days. According to Father Hanna

We are just attesting that things are changing in Baghdad, slowly, but we hope that this change actually is real. We will wait for the future to tell us the truth about this.

The people quoted in the story about this small, guarded celebration, appear to be pragmatic and cautious about the future. Here’s to hoping that our future policies continue to make possible these kinds of significant events during the maturation and mending of Iraq.

Christmas Candles

Christmas Candles

Christmas Banner

Christmas Banner

Iraqi Children Dressed As Santa

Iraqi Children Dressed As Santa

The Good, The Bad, and the Code Pink

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

In today’s Washington Post, there was an article about a bunch of anti-war pansies that decided to hurl their shoes at a big-headed effigy of Bush. The anti-war “activists” assembled yesterday on Pennsylvania Avenue. According to the article,

They assembled a pile of clogs, boots, flip-flops, slippers and pumps, and, in celebration of the journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush in a news conference Sunday in Iraq, they tossed the footwear at a man wearing a papier-mâché Bush mask and a prison uniform.

I think these sufferers of BDS were getting an early start on Festivus. Even the election of Barack Obama could not mask the crowd’s apoplexy

“Here’s my goodbye kiss, George!” shouted Medea Benjamin, coordinator of the Code Pink activist group, as she hurled a shoe, missing her target.

“See if you can dodge this, you draft dodger!” contributed veteran Jim Goodnow, launching a pair of boots toward the Bush character’s head.

What would public spectacle be without Code Pink and Medea Benjamin. I am surprised that Benjamin was able to free up time to come to Washington DC. She usually spends her time carrying the water of Hugo Chavez. She’s pink for a reason.  Jim Goodnow complains that Bush is a draft dodger. I guess that Jim worships at the altar of Dan Rather and the proportional font IBM Selectric Composer of the early 1970’s. Wake up Jim! The government is not after you, and you can remove your hat now.

Earth to Jim, Come In Jim

Earth to Jim, Come In Jim

And this later from Benjamin

“Take this one, George, on behalf of peace-loving Americans!” Benjamin shouted, missing the Bush character.

“Try again, little missy,” Bush taunted.

Benjamin missed again. “Sorry, bad aim,” she explained.

With each toss of a shoe, another accusation flew: “Torturing human beings! Aggressive war! One point two million dead! PTSD! Stem cell research!”

Aggressive war? I hope that every war we undertake is aggressive. What kind of moron complains about war being aggressive? Torturing human beings? Does this refer to waterboarding a couple of pieces of human debris such as  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida? That’s not torture in my book. One point two million dead? This refers to the Opinion Research Business survey, in which about 1720 adults were surveyed. I have said many times that I think that pathological lying is a way of life in the Middle East, and I have a hard time believing anything that they say. On the flip side, there is the Iraq Body Count Project, which used the following sources to develop counts.

  • 8,913 Mortuaries
  • 4,846 Medics
  • 4,376 Iraqi officials
  • 3,794 Eyewitnesses
  • 3,588 Police
  • 2,780 Relatives
  • 2,423 US-Coalition
  • 1,976 Journalists
  • 732 NGOs
  • 596 Friends/Associates
  • 196 Other

I don’t know. It seems like the IBC maybe has a slightly more diverse and more authoritative base of data with which to work. The IBC suggests a number of between 83,000 and 91,000 total deaths so far. I’m not celebrating innocent casualties, but 91,000 is much better than the 1.2 million figure that Benjamin professes. To provide some additional insight into the insanity, the ORB survey suggests that approximately 120,000 people – 30,000 more than the total of the IBCP – died as a result of our air strikes alone. So much for the quality of our precision guided munitions.

Stem cell research? I thought this was put to rest long ago. Adult stem cells have been shown to generate embryonic-like stem cell lines using a single-cell biopsy technique.  Make no mistake, the stem cell research debate is a proxy for reproductive rights and the abortion debate. It is not really about advancing medicine per se. Private research was never banned. Bush was right on this one.

Something tells me that we are going to see more and more crackpots as we lead up to the Inauguration. It is pretty hard to see what these people are going to do once Obama gets in office. They say that they will stop at nothing short of a war crimes tribunal. I suspect that most of these twits are awfully close to a diagnosis of Dissocial Personality Disorder. A quick look at the ICD-10 of the World Health Organization fits these people like a glove. Interestingly, people with dissocial personality disorder are never treated by mental health professionals. Apparently they are considered untreatable, and no interventions have proven effective. Untreatable? Now that I believe.

Duck, Shoes

Monday, December 15th, 2008

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 15 – George W. Bush displayed quick reflexes for a man of his age as he ducked footwear chin music from Muntadhar al-Zaida. Zaida, a  journalist of a Cairo-based pro-Sunni TV station, is unhappy with the United States occupation. Sorry Muntadhar, no more mass murder for you.

Ball 1

Ball 1

The high and tight tossing of hightops, we are told, is absolutely, unequivocally the greatest insult that the Iraqi culture (and I use the term loosely) can bestow.  That, and being called a dog. Which happens at every hip hop concert, I am told. This explains why Bush nearly cracked up during the incident. I know it is not polite to smirk while being shown a balmoral brush back. No doubt, Bush will take some, uh, heat over this one. He should have had greater respect for Zaida’s plain-toed purpose pitch. But what was Zaida thinking? Bush loves baseball.

When Zaida climbed the ladder again, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki nearly committed fan interference as he reached for the blucher beanball. Had Bush been hit, he could have received treatment from a medical professional, such as Dr. Scholl.

Nearly Fan Interference

Nearly Fan Interference

Bush worked Zaida to a hitter friendly 2-0 count. But Zaida got the hook when he ran out of shoes, and was escorted from the mound.

When asked about his right shoe, Zaida had this to say in clear but accented English

It is a [expletive deleted] valuable thing. You don’t just throw it away for nothing.

When asked about his left shoe, Zaida had this to say

I’ve got this thing and its [expletive deleted] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [expletive deleted] nothing.

When asked about a possible pitching contract with the Daytona Cubs, the Chicago Cubs’ Advanced A minor league affiliate, Zaida had this to say

Hold up that [expletive] Cubs [expletive]. [Expletive] them.

Future In the Minors?

Future In the Minors?

When asked how his fellow Iraqis felt about his flame throwing, Zaida had this to say

They’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [expletive deleted] them.

Actually, that’s not true, of course. Zaida is being hailed as a hero across the Arab world. I’m sure that newborn boys in Iraq and elsewhere will be given the name Muntadhar. To Zaida and his adoring mob, I have something for you to to enter on your scorecard

[expletive deleted] you and the shoes you wore in